As part of my work, I am often hired to assess aspiring authors’ manuscripts and one of the recurring themes that crops up in the reports that I write is how to build tension.
Tension is crucial in crime fiction but how do you create it? I always think the writer should:
* Put the reader in the situation. What does it feel like to be there?
* Use the things at their disposal - the senses, is a place cold, is it creepy, is it dark, does it smell rank, is your character affected by this: is a brave character suddenly scared, is a cool character panicky?
* Create a sense of immediacy. Make the reader feel the events. Focus on people and their feelings in order to make the reader feel as if he or she is there
* Create word pictures. Use imagery to write visually. Write the story as you see it
* But keep it simple - do not overdo it, not too flowery, nothing that will slow things down. Good writing relies on a judicious selection of detail.
* Use dialogue to set the pace. Good dialogue carries dramatic impact, advances the story and develop character
* Tension builds so write in spikes - tension, relax, tension relax. Incident, quieter passage, incident. As your story comes to an end, forego the quieter passage and build the tension to a crescendo.
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